What’s happening with email?

Electronic mail is the go-to tactic for marketers. Why? It’s relatively cheap and easy to produce. And it can be very effective. According to Axciom’s Guide to Email Marketing, email has one of the highest ROIs of any marketing effort, returning $44.25 for every $1 spent. Precisely because this tactic has the power to influence your reputation and brand, it’s important to do it right.

The growth of email as a marketing tool

Here are a few quick facts to chew on:

  • Over 200 billion emails are sent each day. (Email statistics)
  • The average office worker receives about 121 emails per day. (Email statistics)
  • The typical U.S. office worker spends 3.2 hours a day reading, responding, filing or deleting work emails (and another 3.1 hours managing personal messages). (Huffingtonpost)
  • Email volume is estimated to grow at an annual rate of 6%. (The Radicati Group)

We’re spending more of our time managing what we receive. This isn’t sustainable, which is why automated systems are widely used to limit the unwanted bombardment. Spam filters and restrictions on purchased or rented mailing lists are designed to prevent “unwanted” marketing messages from ever reaching us. These email overload counter-measures are what you have to work against for your email campaigns to succeed.

Email typically falls into one of two categories: transactional and commercial

Transactional communications are responses to activity initiated by a prospect or customer. Examples include: password resets, shipping notifications, electronic receipts, legal notices and policy updates. Users are not required to opt-in because their actions provide consent. Transactional emails should not contain marketing language, offers or calls to action.

Commercial or marketing communications includes sales notifications, new product introductions, newsletters and event Invitations. These communications must be compliant with the respective legal standards in force of the recipient’s country. And lately, these have become increasingly stringent. While the U.S. has an opt-out subscription approach, many other countries take an opt-in approach meaning that they must sign up and be on record before they can receive your email marketing communications. If they haven’t and they receive something from you, as the sender you’re in violation of their country requirements and regulations.

  • Responsive design is critical, since almost half of all email is now being opened on a mobile device. (However, while initial opening takes place on a mobile device, deeper engagement still happens via the desktop/laptop.)
  • Maintain your list to avoid sending communications to inactive users. Keep in mind that your contact lists have a short shelf life—about 25% of your list could be out of date within 12 months.
  • Remove all undeliverable hard bounces on the first bounce, because the address is no longer active.
  • Honor your customers’ preferences. Send them only what they ask for and only as often they want to hear from you.

With the automated process built into most ESPs, it’s easy to build out an email campaign that then runs by itself. While the delivery mechanism and timing may be automated, the content requires a personal touch. Knowing what your prospect and customer wants from you will help you build genuine and authentic campaign messaging.

Email will work in your favor when it delivers value. How recipients feel about what they receive (the content is just right, helpful, relevant and appropriate) can help turn a prospect in to a customer and a customer into a loyal customer. Pushy, irrelevant and too frequent communications will send prospects running and unsubscribing from everything you want them to see. Worse still for your reputation and brand, instead of unsubscribing, they may flag your email as spam.

As the noise and clutter continues to increase, the days of sending generic messages are over. Individual preferences, combined with other known demographic data, dynamic content and personalization allow you to segment your messages—so that they are received by the right people at the right time and provide a more relevant experience. This enhances the customer experience and leads to improved customer relationships, greater engagement and better response rates.

Test for success

As with traditional direct marketing, email has many variables, which can, and should, be tested. Everything from subject lines and content variables (imagery, offers, length, message tone) to time of day and day of the week can reveal customer insights. Ultimately, the best performing campaigns will drive greater open rates, click-through rates and conversions, although higher open rates may not always lead to the highest qualified prospects. In AdRoll’s State of the Industry 2016 report, businesses identify the following as their leading measurements of email success:

  • 40% engagement (i.e., clicks)
  • 26% open rate
  • 20% direct revenue generated

While email can and does operate as a standalone channel, as with all channels, your email campaigns will be most effective when they’re integrated with traditional print efforts.

If you conduct business in overseas markets like EMEA, APAC or Canada, check out our other blog post America is different: Email Marketing Outside the U.S.

Be sure to download our email infographic, then let us show you how your campaigns can do better.